Wednesday, October 5, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct 5: US DOE Audit: Chester Charter CEO wrote checks to himself totaling $11M without board approval

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 5, 2016
US DOE Audit: Chester Charter CEO wrote checks to himself totaling $11 million without board approval

Registered to vote? Did you know you can do it online? Last day is 10/11/16. Don't wait! 

While the audit did not name the school, there is only one charter in the city of Chester - Chester Community Charter School.  The school, which has more than 3,000 K-8 students, is the largest brick-and-mortar charter in the state. The most recent annual report from the state Department of Education shows that the school had total revenues of $45.1 million in the fiscal year 2013.  Vahan H. Gureghian, a lawyer and enterpreneur who has been active in Republican politics, is the founder and CEO of CSMI Education Management, which manages Chester Community.”
Federal audit spotlights charter school financial practices
Updated: OCTOBER 5, 2016 — 1:07 AM EDT Inquirer by Martha Woodall, STAFF WRITER
A national audit of charter school management companies by the U.S. Department of Education has spotlighted an unnamed Chester city school where auditors say the CEO wrote checks to himself totaling $11 million without board approval.  The report by the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Education did not accuse the CEO of wrongdoing, but offered its finding as an example of a conflict of interest and lack of financial controls that could make the schools vulnerable to fraud.  The report cited similar issues at four unnamed Philadelphia charter schools.  In the instance of the Chester school, federal auditors reported that the CEO of the management organization wrote checks to himself in 2008-09.  According to the federal report, the school's lawyer reported that the charter had changed its policy to address the weakness in fiscal controls, including requiring the board to approve such payments. However, the audit said, the school "could not provide written procedures to support the change."

According to data is from the Pennsylvania Campaign Finance website, Vahan Gureghian made political contributions in 2008 totaling $267,205.93 and in 2009 totaling $330,302.76.  The dates, amounts and recipients of those contributions are detailed in this June 2011 KEYSEC posting.  BTW, from 2007 through 2011, the Chester Community Charter manager made contributions totaling $1,320,653.69
Follow the Money: Contributions by Vahan Gureghian 1/1/07 - 5/31/11
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Commentary: Charters not really a good choice for parents and kids
Philly Daily News Commentary by Lisa Haver Updated: OCTOBER 3, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Lisa Haver is a retired Philadelphia teacher and co-founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.
SCHOOL CHOICE is one of many issues that illustrate the stark difference between the two major candidates for president. While Hillary Clinton, supported by teachers' unions, has expressed support for charters within a robust public system, Donald Trump promises to use the power of the presidency to promote school choice policies and replace "the failed tenure system" with merit pay for teachers. Trump recently proposed a massive voucher system in which over $20 billion in federal funds would be distributed to states so that parents could choose among "public, private, charter or magnet" schools.  While the promise of "choice" - placing education in an unregulated free-market system of winners and losers - has been sold by reformers as the answer to the underfunding of public schools for over a decade, the power of those in struggling districts to make decisions about their public schools has been stripped from them as a result of "interventions" imposed by governors and legislatures across the country. An analysis by News21 found that lawmakers in at least 20 states have either eliminated locally-elected school boards or stripped them of their power. African Americans make up 43 percent, and Hispanics 20 percent, of those disenfranchised by these takeovers. Philadelphia lost control of its school district when Harrisburg imposed the appointed and unaccountable School Reform Commission on the city in 2001.

“And in its decision last week, the Nevada Supreme Court found the program’s funding, not the program itself, unconstitutional. By denying the program’s funding, however, the supreme court’s decision will effectively end the program. The Education Law Center, part of the pro-bono legal team in this case, commented on the significance of the Nevada Supreme Court’s decision: “The Court’s ruling makes clear that the Nevada Legislature violated a constitutional prohibition against the use of public education funding for any purpose other than the operation of the public schools. The ESA voucher program would have diverted funds from the public schools for private education expenditures. This decision strikes at the heart of the ESA voucher program, which was designed to remove significant amounts of funding from public school budgets to pay for private school tuition and other expenses, even for the wealthy.  The court’s sweeping ruling permanently blocks the program from being implemented in the future.”
Nevada Education Savings Account Vouchers Ruled Unconstitutional by Nevada’s Supreme Court
Jan Resseger’s Blog Posted on October 4, 2016 by janresseger
In a short brief, the National Education Association concisely defines Education Savings Accounts—the kind of school voucher program that was found unconstitutional by the Nevada Supreme Court last week:
“Education Savings Accounts (ESA) are the latest trend in publicly subsidized private school education… (T)he common factor is that these programs pay parents all or a large portion of the money the state would otherwise have spent to educate their children in exchange for an agreement to forego their right to a public education. Funds deposited into such accounts may be used for any number of expenses, including private school tuition, fees, textbooks; tutoring and test prep; homeschooling curriculum and supplemental materials; special instruction and therapeutic services; transportation; and management fees. These programs also permit parents to roll over unused funds for use in subsequent years and to invest a portion of the funds into college savings plans.”  Education Savings Accounts are advocated by the American Federation for Children (Betsy DeVos’s organization) and the Friedman Foundation.  The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has a model Education Savings Account bill ready to be introduced in any state legislature. (If you are unfamiliar with ALEC, check out this post.) As of 2015, NEA reported that five states—Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Mississippi and Tennessee—had passed legislation to establish Education Savings Accounts.

Audit: How Charter School Management Groups Pose Risks to Federal Funds
Education Week Charters and Choice Blog By Arianna Prothero on October 4, 2016 4:15 PM 
A federal audit warns that cozy relationships between charter schools and the organizations that run some of them could put federal funding at risk.  Charter management organizations, or CMOs, are groups that run critical functions like finances, fundraising, communications, and curriculum for multiple charter schools.  Not all charter schools are run by a CMO—the majority of charter schools in the country are actually single-campus operations.  The level of independence between the school and the CMO varies on a case-by-case basis, and the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General, which conducted the audit, is basically saying that in some instances there is so little independence between the school and the management group that it could lead—and has led—to trouble.  The OIG audit examined 33 schools in six states and found several examples of conflicts of interest, related-party transactions, and insufficient segregation of duties—all controls designed to prevent fraud.  The lack of proper guard rails in these relationships between charter management organizations and their schools, the audit concludes, significantly increases the risk that federal programs are not being implemented correctly and are wasting public money.

Former U.S. education secretary rips the nation's teacher preparation programs
Inquirer by Susan Snyder, Staff Writer  @ssnyderinq Updated: OCTOBER 4, 2016 10:49 AM EDT
Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in an open letter to the country's college presidents and education school deans takes a firm, hard swing at teacher preparation programs.  The system, he wrote, “lacks rigor, is out of step with the times, and is given to extreme grade inflation that leaves teachers unprepared and their future students at risk.”  His letter  went live at 9 a.m. Tuesday on the web site of the Brookings Institution, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, where he is a nonresident senior fellow.  Duncan, said a Brookings’ spokeswoman, hopes to spark a conversation about teacher preparation programs, something he also tried to do when he led the education department.

Quick Mentions of Desegregation, K-12 Funding in V.P. Debate
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on October 4, 2016 11:00 PM
Vice-presidential nominees Tim Kaine and Mike Pence have long records on education. But neither of them talked very much about them in their first and only debate, at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., Tuesday.   If you blinked you might have missed them, but there were a couple of quick mentions of K-12 education. Kaine, for instance, kicked off the debate by talking about school integration. He likened his running mate, Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, to Barbara Johns, a high school student in Farmville who lead a walkout at Moton High School in 1951 to protest segregation.   "She believed our nation was stronger together," Kaine said, invoking Clinton's campaign slogan. "And that walkout led to the Brown v. Board of Education decision that moved us down the path toward equality."  School desegregation is also a key part of the personal story that Kaine has been telling on the campaign trail. His father-in-law, Linwood Holton, lead the effort to desegregate Virginia's schools back in the 1970's. Holton sent his own children—including Kaine's future wife, Anne Holton—to newly integrated schools. (Anne Holton later served as Virginia's education secretary. Check out our interview with her here.)  For his part, Pence repeated a claim he's made several times on the trail that he was able to make "record investments" in education in his state, while finishing with a surplus.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 10/5/2016

Testing Resistance & Reform News: September 28 - October 4, 2016
Submitted by fairtest on October 4, 2016 - 1:38pm 
The wide range of stories in this week's news clips show the growing breadth and depth of the grassroots testing resistance and reform movement. Parents, students, educators and community leaders are all pushing for fewer standardized exams, an end to high-stakes testing, and better assessments based on classroom performance. 

Want to help strengthen public education in the commonwealth? Join with EdPAC, a political action committee that supports the election of pro-public education leaders to the General Assembly.
Partner with EdPAC!
Want to help strengthen public education in the commonwealth? Join with EdPAC, a political action committee that supports the election of pro-public education leaders to the General Assembly. EdPAC will hold a fundraising reception Friday, Oct. 14 from 5-6 p.m. at the 2016 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference. Visit the website to register online and learn more.

Basic Education Funding workshops coming to your area
PA now has a permanent Basic Education Funding formula. Learn more about how it works, what it measures and why it's important. Workshops sponsored by PASA, PSBA, PAIU, PARSS, PA Principals Association and PASBO are coming to an area near you.
Register and see more details and dates here.

The Public Interest Law Center invites you to its 2016 Annual Event: “Of the People, By the People, For the People.” Thursday, Oct 6, 2016 at 6:00 PM
FringeArts 140 N. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, PA
Honoring: Soil Generation, Nicholas Chimicles, and Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP

PENNSYLVANIA EDUCATION POLICY FORUM  Wednesday, October 12, 2016  SUBJECT:  EPLC's 2016 Report:  High School Career and Technical Education: Serving Pennsylvania's Workforce and Student Needs
Coffee and Networking - 9:30 a.m.  Program - 10:00 a.m. to Noon   

Technical College High School (Brandywine Campus) - 443 Boot Rd., Downingtown, PA 19335
 RSVP by clicking here. There is no fee, but a RSVP is required. Please feel free to share this invitation with your staff and network. 
An Overview of the EPLC Report on High School CTE will be presented by:
Ron Cowell, President, The Education Policy and Leadership Center
Statewide and Regional Perspectives Will Be Provided By
Dr. Lee Burket, Director, Bureau of Career & Technical Education, PA Department of Education
Jackie Cullen, Executive Director, PA Association of Career & Technical Administrators
Dan Fogarty, Director of Workforce Development & COO, Berks County Workforce Development Board
Kirk Williard, Ed.D., Director of Career, Technical & Customized Education, Chester County Intermediate Unit 

Registration for the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 13-15 is now open
The conference is your opportunity to learn, network and be inspired by peers and experts.
TO REGISTER: See   (you must be logged in to the Members Area to register). You can read more on How to Register for a PSBA Event here.   CONFERENCE WEBSITE: For all other program details, schedules, exhibits, etc., see the conference

The Sixth Annual Arts and Education Symposium – October 27, 2016
The 2016 Arts and Education Symposium will be held on October 27 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg Convention Center.  Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Arts Education network and EPLC, the Symposium is a Unique Networking and Learning Opportunity for:
·         Arts Educators
·         School Leaders
·         Artists
·         Arts and Culture Community Leaders
·         Arts-related Business Leaders
·         Arts Education Faculty and Administrators in Higher Education
·         Advocates
·         State and Local Policy Leaders
Act 48 Credit is available.
Program and registration information are available here.

REGISTER NOW for the 2016 PA Principals Association State Conference, October 30 - November 1, at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College.
PA Principals Association website Tuesday, August 2, 2016 10:43 AM
To receive the Early Bird Discount, you must be registered by August 31, 2016:
Members: $300  Non-Members: $400
Featuring Three National Keynote Speakers: Eric Sheninger, Jill Jackson & Salome Thomas-EL

SAVE THE DATE LWVPA Convention 2017 June 1-4, 2017
Join the League of Women Voters of PA for our 2017 Biennial Convention at the beautiful Inn at Pocono Manor!

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